Big message from #Traingate: Virgin/Branson don’t think Corbyn’s got a remote chance of ever making it to Number 10

August 24th, 2016

Virgin wouldn’t have been so emboldened if they’d thought JC was ever going to be PM

Huge coverage overnight of the Mr. Corbyn’s little affair on the train to Newcastle and I thought the comment on Newnight by the ex-adviser to EdM sums it up neatly. The CCTV footage from the train would not have been released by the politically astute Virgin company if they had thought that there was any chance at all that this was about someone who could at some stage become PM.

Virgin, which is all about branding and image which it takes very seriously, clearly doesn’t think that bashing Corbyn is going to hurt it in any way.

This was about the political weakness of the the LAB leader and the danger for him is that it will linger. The former LAB pollster, Deborah Mattinson summed up the political damage in this quote on Newsnight.

Whether it’ll have any impact on the current leadership election I doubt. It will simply reinforce the pro-Corbyn and and anti-Corbyn factions within the party.

Mike Smithson


Whatever the rights and wrongs of “#Traingate” Corbyn needs a better PR organisation

August 23rd, 2016

The afternoon has been dominated by what’s now become #Traingate – how the film of Corbyn having to sit on the floor of a Newcastle-bound Virgin train two weeks ago might not have been all it seemed.

I don’t want to go into the rights and wrongs here because I just don’t know. As a very regular traveller on that line I have a lot of sympathy for the Labour leader. Services can get packed and finding seats can be difficult which is why it is always wise, and much better value, to book ahead of time. That way you get a reserved seat.

The problem was he’d used his experience on the trip to make a political point on the ownership of the railways. When you do that your PR team has to take into account the possibility that the claims you make might be unpicked.

Team JC make a big point of saying that there is a media bias against them. Maybe. But Corbyn has to ensure that he gets the best possible PR advice and support in what is a critical part of his job – how things he does and say are portrayed. I don’t believe that under Seamus Milne he is being well enough served. Milne had never had a PR role before taking on the Corbyn job and it shows.

Mike Smithson


Smith should acknowledge that JC’s the likely winner and press for the highest possible vote to “send a message to the party”

August 23rd, 2016


The challenger needs to change strategy

This morning there’s been another effort by the Smith campaign to claim that “private polling” suggests that the battle is close and that he could win.

This might or might not be right but until we see a proper selectorate poll showing something different the overwhelming narrative will be that that JC is heading to hang on to his job.

There’s no point in the Smith campaign making assertions which are simply not believed whatever their substance. Rather he should switch his objective to securing the maximum possible votes which would be putting JC under notice that he has to improve or else there’ll be another summer LAB leadership election in 2017.

That might help with waverers who are worried by Smith’s lack of experience.

An outcome where Corbyn finishes in the lower 50s would have a dramatically different impact than if he reaches or even exceeds the near 60% of last year yet again. If JC’s down into the 50-55% region then it’s going to be harder to play the mandate card. He could be portrayed as being on the decline and that his demise was only a matter of time.

If Labour’s still in the polling doldrums next June and Corbyn’s ratings remain poor then that would set things up for another challenge.

Mike Smithson


Use your political forecasting skills to enter the 2016 PB Labour leadership PRIZE Competition

August 23rd, 2016


Simply record here Smith or Corbyn;your predicted winning margin & turnout

Thanks to Mark Hopkins and his NoJam widget we’ve prepared another PB Prize competition. Simply predict who’ll win the LAB contest and the winning margin. There’s a tie-breaker question as well – the turnout.

Your predictions should be to two decimal points and the competition will close at 1900 BST tomorrow night.

The two entrants who are closest will win in addition to the bragging rights copies of what’s set to be the political best seller of 2016 which is being published next month. This is the follow up to the 2015 hit “Sex, Lies and the Ballot Box” called imaginatively “More Sex, Lies and the Ballot Box”. It is by two very notable academics Phil Cowley and Robert Ford.


As ever I am the final arbiter on all aspects of the competition.

Have fun entering and by tomorrow evening we’ll see what the PB consensus is. I think that this is going to be close and my entry will be Corbyn by a small margin.

Have fun.

Mike Smithson


YouGov polling on the reasons LAB voters from last May who’ve now switched give for their change.

August 22nd, 2016

Survey Report

This is how it looks in a word cloud

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Showing the “human face” of the PLP – how MPs who were let down by Corbyn can help deliver victory to Smith

August 22nd, 2016

Labour Leadership Debate   Jeremy Corbyn vs Owen Smith  2 4    YouTube (1)

Don Brind on Smith’s message to 2015 Corbyn voters with buyers’ remorse

“I’ll tell you what sums up Jeremy Corbyn for me. When we had a march through Westminster he made sure he was right at the front and carrying a banner. But when it came to the hard graft – talking to businesses and government he was nowhere to be seen.

Anna Turley the MP for Redcar is perched on a desk in her office in front of her predecessor the late Mo Mowlam – “she’s revered in this town” — and she is talking about the fight to save thousands of jobs after the closure of Redcar steelworks in September last year.

Turley was recording a video exposing Corbyn’s shortcoming’s as a leader. The video will be part of a series which will be sent out by the Owen Smith campaign as more than 640,000 Labour members and registered supporters begin receiving their ballot papers by post and email.

Corbyn’s claim to have created the largest political party in Europe is only true the extent that he has inspired equal and opposite passions – people signing up to back him or sack him. As I highlighted here,  the 120,000 recruited through Saving Labour campaign are a game changer and mean Corbyn could lose.

A key strand in the Corbyn campaign has been to channel anger against the 80 per cent of Labour MPs who supported a motion of no confidence in the leader. “What we are doing” explains Turley, “is putting a human face to the PLP. The Corbyn campaign has been attacking the PLP. The truth is that the vast majority of MPs were loyal to Jeremy and tried to make things work. He failed to show the leadership we needed.”

The target for these human face videos is former Corbyn supporters now feeling buyers’ remorse. Another MP who has recorded a video about life under Corbyn’s leadership is the former shadow transport secretary Lilian Greenwood whose eloquent defence of her decision to resign has been widely quoted.

The scene has been set for the “human face” videos by the Heidi Alexander-Sadiq Khan double whammy. Despite the golden news from Rio, the former Shadow Health Secretary and the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan elbowed their way on to the front pages of the Guardian and Observer with their devastating critiques of Corbyn’s failure as a leader.

The Observer reports Khan’s “brutal attack” on Corbyn as a sudden change of heart – only two days earlier he has spurned the chance to declare his hand on the Today programme. In fact, I see the quick fire salvoes as a well-planned manoeuvre. The two London MPs are close friends and know what it takes to win elections. Alexander was number two to Khan in the successful London borough campaign in 2014 when Labour took control of an extra six councils. She was then chair of Khan’s mayoral campaign last year. She is now vice chair of the Smith campaign.

Smith and his team believe there are a large number of potential switchers from Corbyn who will be impressed by the personal testimonies of people who did their best to make a success of their jobs despite what Alexander calls the “entirely dysfunctional” working of the Corbyn shadow cabinet.

In the Observer Khan says  that if Corbyn remains leader “the Tories will stay in power, and Labour will stay in opposition.”

The accepted wisdom is that Sadiq Khan’s appeal will fall on deaf ears. For Corbynistas electoral defeat is a price worth paying for having a leader with values and policies they like. They turn out in their thousands for Momentum rallies and nomination meetings.

But the vast majority of the 640,000 strong selectorate never go anywhere near these events. I stick to my view that the result on September 24th is too close to call.

Don Brind


Rio’s over and so to Tokyo and beyond

August 22nd, 2016

Jason Kenny and Laura Trott on a Golden Olympics   YouTube

David Herdson looks at the battle to host the Games of the XXXIII Olympiad?

So, farewell then Rio – or perhaps, goodbye. It’s not been a vintage Games. Some problems, such as the Zika virus, couldn’t have been anticipated or prevented but others – the three-quarter empty stadia, the unsporting crowds, the polluted water, dangerous cycle courses and the impending shambles of the Paralympics – most certainly could. The City of Fiesta never showed up and it will be a very long time before the interlocking rings fly again under the statue of Christ the Redeemer.

Tokyo should do better. Japan has an excellent record in delivering on both the organisation absent in Rio and the public enthusiasm. Whether it can also create the atmosphere that makes for a true festival of sport, as Sydney and London managed, remains to be seen. I’m optimistic that it can.

But then where? Four cities are bidding for the 2024 Games: Budapest, Los Angeles, Paris and Rome, with the gold medal to be awarded next September.

Second-guessing selections is always a tough task but one made a lot easier if we can understand the thinking of those doing the selecting. That, though, is a lot easier said than done. One factor that shouldn’t be relevant is the gift-culture of the past. The IOC is not FIFA and has genuinely cleaned up its act. To my mind, there will be three main considerations in the delegates’ minds:

– Who can put on the Games in a way that will add to the IOC’s prestige?
– Whose turn is it?
– Where would I like to spend five weeks or so in summer?

As ever, form is also important and the evidence is that big cities and big countries do disproportionately well in winning. Well over half the Summer Olympics held since de Coubertin recreated them have been staged in what are now G7/UNSC countries and all bar two Games since 1952 have taken place in G20 countries (and those two were the home city of the then IOC president and the capital of the Olympics’ spiritual home, so very much exceptional).

All of which points to ruling out Budapest. It might well be able to host a good Games but with a seven-year lead-in time, there’s plenty that could go wrong and a small country that struggled seriously in the last recession (even if it’s recovered strongly since), might just be too big a risk. Besides which, Hungary will for many IOC delegates be a bit nondescript even if Budapest itself is lovely. Likewise, while Eastern Europe is due a Games, others are due one more.

We can probably also rule out Rome. Indeed, when the betting exchanges get round to putting up markets, this is probably the one to lay as it’ll have the shorter odds (Corals make Rome 3/1, to Budapest’s 10/1). The city withdrew as a 2020 applicant at the last minute which won’t have endeared them to the IOC and political support for the bid remains divided within the city.

That leaves two: Paris and Los Angeles. Both can say they represent areas long overdue a Summer Games. By 2024, it will be 28 years since North America last played host and exactly 100 years since France did. Both are global premier league cities in big countries and both are internationally attractive destinations, fit to follow in the footsteps of Beijing, London, Rio and Tokyo.

Paris, however, is by some way the bookies’ favourite, at 10/11, against LA’s 3/1. I’m not sure that disparity is right, though the cautious might prefer to look at the combined odds, albeit that the heavily odds-on price won’t return much.

The French capital has run before and ought to know the pitfalls to avoid and the strengths to play to (not insulting Finnish cooking, for example). By contrast, Los Angeles wasn’t even the USOC’s first choice bid city for 2024: Boston was selected but withdrew under local opposition.

Will that matter? Maybe not all that much. Paris also bid before for the 2008 Games and lost to London four years later, despite the latter not having bid recently (though the UK had), and despite the IOC technical team rating Paris the best of all the candidates. Were I marking up the book, I’d just have it the other side of evens and with LA a lot closer. The IOC will certainly want to return to the US at some point soon, the question is whether this is the bid and the time to do it. It’s a close call but my gut feeling is that centenary sentiment will win out and they’ll make the US wait another four years.

David Herdson


Remember the last LAB leader to put his faith in rallies

August 21st, 2016